Here we are in the midst of these winter months with the ice, snow, rain, and winter chills in our bones, and we are desperately looking forward to spring! Many people suffer from “S.A.D” or Seasonal Affective Disorder during these winter months, where they become overwhelmed with an uneasy sadness of heart and spirit, not to mention depression, lethargy, and apathy. We long for the first signs of spring to burst forth to give us a sense of hope and new life! So, we need something to cheer us up and re-energize our spirits.
I read something interesting recently on the internet which I believe is worth reflecting on and which I would like to share with you. It was entitled: “The Experiment: Violinist in the Metro”.
A man sat at a metro station in Washington D.C. and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then he hurried up to meet his schedule.
A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.
A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a three year old boy. His mother tagged him along hurriedly, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pulled harder and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell held a sold out concert at a theatre in Boston, with the seats averaging $100.
Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: if we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?
Something to ponder as we await spring!
Always at your service, Father Joe D’Angelo